His son, Elias Leon, is graduating grade school today, yesterday by the time this sees print. He is graduating from South Hills International School. Elias is not too nervous for doing this; even though his class will be presenting a song number for the commencement exercises, something by Bruno Mars. The school is that way.
It is a small school. Elias’s class has eight classmates in his class. And it seems to his parents he has been enjoying himself in what is for him a new school. He has been here for only a year. His parents see the possible anachronisms between the concepts, school, and Elias enjoying himself. But there it is. From time to time, the rare amused smile from the “big guy.”
Elias is tall for his age. Twelve years old and now inching ever closer to six feet, his parents are not surprised. He seemed always the biggest person in all his classes since kindergarten. And this size must have been a difficult thing for him. His relative weight made him always, from the very beginning, quite a huggable person. Is there another person of his family more huggable than Elias?
There is none. The mother might qualify, but hardly to a meaningful extent. The Dad? Forget it. He has a perennial stubble growing from his face. And at a certain point, this stubble looks like the spikes growing out of the sea urchin, the edible type; the salawaki in black and white, since they are colored salt and pepper now that he has grown older. As for the other children, Elias’s siblings, they look more likely to pounce on you before accepting your hug.
Elias’s big size made him especially visible. He never had to worry too much about bullies since he could always deal with them. But there were many times early on in the earlier grades when he had to arbitrate in conflicts between his classmates. Many times he found himself defending the weaker classmate. And he found this work not at all enjoyable. Elias knows the burden of being the big guy.
He is the big huggable guy, soft and gentle. He confesses to getting hugged in school often especially by the older girls. It is something he has to bear. He has yet to reach the age when he will actually enjoy it.
For now, he just has to tolerate it along with other things like having the biggest pants and shoes in the family. He is a grade schooler who looks the size of someone graduating from high school. This seeming aberration of size makes him stoop a little bit when he is anxious over something. And for his parents, this is always a signal for them to ask if there is anything wrong in school or in his life. It is something of their barometer for his emotional well-being.
His parents admit to initial doubts about Elias’s new school. When Elias was only beginning grade school, he would not enter into the school campus of the school he was enrolled in at that time. His father sent him to school in their motorcycle. Elias would go only as far as the school gate before turning around and walking away. And nothing his father said could convince him to change his mind. For days on end, the same thing happened.
Elias would not go to school. His parents tried everything, tried scolding, tried bribery, but nothing worked.
At one time, his father even brought him to the gates of the provincial jail to show him what happened to children who did not go to school. But even this did not work. What did work? Neither Elias nor his parents remember exactly what. One day, he just crossed the threshold. And to this day the father still wonders if he did right for pressuring the little guy to do something he obviously did not want to do? Did he break his spirit?
Now finally, as Elias went to accept his diploma, even to do the song number, he can rest well thinking how Elias is still the huggable big guy he always was, nothing lost, nothing broken. He is happy. And that’s all he ever dreamed for him.
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